5 RC-20 Sound Design Tips for LoFi Producers (with Free Presets)

Retro Color 20 (RC-2) Intro

Retro Color 20 (RC-20) by XLN Audio (available here) should not need much of an introduction. It has become a staple within the production community (great for lofi in particular). Undeniably, RC-20 has graduated to a plugin we use in our default template on many sounds, drum buses, and even the master bus if we’re aiming for a lofi vibe. Retro Color 20 (RC-20) gives the creator limitless sound design options. The goal of this article is to share 5 RC-20 sound design tips that producers can apply to their production. We’re using a 2 bar piano chord progression with Izotope Iris 2 (available here).

Did someone say, “Presets?”

1.) Presets Get You 75% of the Way There!

One of the most discussed aspects of RC-20 is its intuitive user interface, which gives you a full range of creative expression. Not to mention, hover over each knob and slider long enough, and RC-20 tells you what you’re changing and how it works. While we see many creators use RC-20 in unique ways, we still notice artists don’t take full advantage of the true innovative range RC-20 offers. Overall, the presets XLN Audio put together are amazing and work in 80% of cases, but explore the boundaries yourself! Let’s look at a couple custom presets we put together with audio examples. All these RC-20 custom lofi presets are available for free here.

Light LoFi

A Free RC-20 Preset from LoFi Weekly

We created the Light LoFi preset to make any sound feel as if you sampled it off vinyl into an older sampler. More specifically, you at once pick up the vinyl sound with light aliasing as the chords progress. You can continue to shape this sound with EQ to boost or reduce the added texture.

Tunnel Vision

A Free RC-20 Preset from LoFi Weekly

The Tunnel Vision preset by LoFi Weekly was to make audio sound more surround with an older radio vibe. In addition, you hear the added “Flux” in the “Space” module, giving this a more open sound.

Feeling Lost

A Free RC-20 Preset from LoFi Weekly

Feeling Lost provides a very worn, spacey effect. This uses the “8-Bit” choice in the “Noise” module with lots of “Flutter” in the “Magnetic” module. Additionally, by cranking the “Space” dial module, we add in much more reverb while increasing the “Width” knob in the bottom section of the plugin. Furthermore, we apply a hard cut around 40hz with a softer cut around 11khz.

An Ax Aux Bus?

#2 RC-20 as an AUX Channel?

One thing I remember being told when I started mixing was “time based effects should go on an aux bus, dynamic effects go on the track/insert.” For instance, your reverb / delay on an aux bus and route signal to it, but other effects should stay on your audio signal track/insert. Well, the good thing? Although this may be true, in production you can throw rules out the window!

For example, in the audio track below we take the Light LoFi preset we shared above and applied this to a bus track which we routed signal to from our audio chord track. The results are interesting. The prior “in your face” vintage vibe now has a passive, low character sense. This can get interesting as you add more plugins on this aux track with the RC-20 to freak it. Maybe add a delay, reverb, or a chorus! That being said, don’t overlook this!

Layer Up

3.) Don’t Just Layer Your Drums & Melodies!

Without a doubt, we know how important layering is in sound design. For example, layering multiple kicks together to get that perfect hit, or layering multiple melodies together to achieve that unison, full feel, layering is a critical part of creating. Given these points, why do some engineers stop short of layering multiple FX together? Although layering saturation plugins is not always the answer, ultimately you get to decide your mix! To sum up, below you hear us mix multiple concurrent RC-20 sessions to change the vibe of the original audio. Although plugin layering can be CPU intensive and not work in most cases, try it sometime, layering is a time proven technique!

RC-20 on Other Effects?

#4 Route Delay / Reverb aux through RC-20 bus channel

In similar fashion to what we discussed when sending the RC-20 plugin to an AUX track. On the other hand, here is using an effect as the intermediary. In the audio sample below, we send the audio signal to a reverb aux bus and send the output of the reverb aux through the RC-20 bus. As a result, this gives a very interesting vibe as it saturates the reverb, making it pop more depending on the RC-20 settings you configure. Without a doubt watch this trick turn any bland reverb into a unique effect chain and give added texture that can make or break the sound you’re going for. In the end, this is one of our favorite techniques.

Meet my Friend, Mr. Compressor

#5 Compression, Heavy, Heavy Compression

On one hand, this goes against almost every other genre of music, but lofi hip hop loves over compression. For example, whether the ducking feel that is nostalgic for the J Dilla beats or that SP-404 vinyl sim compression that everyone tries to emulate in software, compression is a big part of lofi hip hop. More specifically, most mixes have compression first in the effect chain. On the other hand we’re going to put RC-20 ahead of the compressor and hit that gain reduction hard. Although you often hear compression as, “gluing the track together,” we’re aiming for a ridiculous compression to cement the RC-20 and audio track together. Unsurprisingly we’re using the FET compressor from Studio One (our default DAW – available here), any compressor you want to use here will work. Ultimately, we’re aiming for 7-9db on the gain reduction meter to get this pumping. The fun part? Combine with the advice in this article!


Retro Color (RC-20) by XLN Audio is a fantastic tool that gives you a ton of flexibility and freedom in shaping your sound. In the end, this tool has become a staple in the lofi community, and we recommend it to fellow lofi creators.